Winner of the 2021 Gulf Coast Prize in Poetry

Lisa Fay Coutley

according to my therapist, is my body’s / way of saying I’m a gazelle, head bent / to long grass, eating but heeding the puma / who’s tracking me, so I often stop, raise my / face & wait, unable to chew until my brain / scans the landscape to see I’m free / from teeth. In the tall window of this / office, Lucinda the magenta orchid screams / or flames or celebrates even though it is / January & there is no sky. There’s an elephant / straight ahead, Buddha to the left, a trampoline behind me / where once I rocked myself still for the dull pain / in my pelvis. There are two silent clocks / & no foul smells, no reason to fear this room / wants to hold me by my wrists / still light pours in from the north / when a man’s hand erases a girl’s thigh / until she’s the fish with a fluke for its will / forcing her to flash her shimmering fins / bald at the water’s top for some lucky bird / come pluck her my parasite inside / I’ll be the bird flying a half life / singing against my own desire.


Or I am not a gazelle. I am pinned 
to the bed in a way only one of us likes. 

I am breath locked behind the wire 
drawn ribs of knowing you’re running 

out of this week's money to feed 
your babies. I am learning to cry 

quietly so as not to hurt everyone 
around me. Each year I grow more 

sunflowers for the faces I’m holding 
underwater inside me. A bird of prey 

in the house is one less in the sky.